Last week's gigs as reviewed by la gig slut avec les pieds d'argent


Fev 4 2007, 23h39

25 January - System Trap, Indigo Shadow, Morning View, University of the King @ Actress & Bishop, Birmingham

A song from the perspective of triplet foetuses, a double bass that kept slipping out of tune, the first clarinet I've seen since I was at school, and a lead who strips down to his thermals and pulls kung fu poses, all came together to form University of the King. Quaintly shambolic, but by no means lacking on the lyrics or imagination front. In fact listening back to their Myspace I'm even more struck by the weirdness. And I like them even more. One of the more unusual bands I've seen - they've definitely won me over.

Morning View seemed a bit nervous when they took to the stage, and trying to establish some banter with a largely unreceptive Actress seemed hard work, and I felt for them. However, the Northern charm won through with a rather raucous birthday girl in the corner, and relaxed both band and audience equally. They are a reasonably tight outfit; the only comment I would make is that perhaps the singer is too good? Compared to the band's more raw, edgy sound, he's just a bit too polished. However, considering their sound is largely positive and buoying, it does (on reflection) fit better than you might think. They could use it to good effect at festivals, lure people in with the voice and hangover-appeasing tunes, and smack them with radio play when they get back. They get my approval.

Indigo Shadow. Gash. Just... no. Please no. The bassist is great and the drummer is very new, so I can't fault them. The guitars don't really have much to work with - they're perfectly acceptable, though one of them was looking bored with his own existence, apart from when he attempted some messy and barely reciprocated 'hey let's us two guitarists meet mid stage for a rock-off' moments. Also, the singer sounds like an angry wasp. In fact I got the same desperate urge to run away as I do with the six-legged beastie. He is at least mildly enthusiastic, with some careful rolling round on stage so as not to mess his hair up, but sometimes that's just not enough to keep my attention. A mercifully short set.

System Trap were up last. I'd had a conversation with them before hand in which I jokingly suggested that they should suck up to me, being a journalist type. They asked who I wrote for; upon my reply of 'myself', they replied "well we let our music do the talking". So, dutifully, I report to you what their music told me. It told me that the band are full of confidence, and not half bad players. It would like the chance to be experimented with, but they prefer the melodic rock favoured by so many Birmingham bands, and so its desires in that quarter are largely suppressed. After a chat with the University of the King's music, it feels a bit inferior, though does feel it has the edge in terms of quality of live performance, if not lyrics or novelty. It feels pretty smug next to Indigo Shadow (but even Report the View probably could), and spent a good part of the interview sticking its tongue out behind their lead singer's back, and had to be restrained from giving him a wedgie. I asked if it was pleased by the audience reaction - but I couldn't figure the answer, as I suddenly realised I had been conducting a silent interview with the non-existent personification of the music performed by three random blokes. Ahem. Good stuff though.

26 January - The Klatter, Fur, Bi-Polar Baby, Cerwin @ Bar Academy, Birmingham

Cerwin were quite a surprise. From their Myspace I wasn't really expecting much, and they took a couple of tracks to settle into their set, but once they had I was quite taken by them. I will admit to being slightly unnerved by the desperate-sounding wailing on 'Larceny' and 'Fire Exit', but after a while it quite grew on me and I was quite disappointed when it tailed off. A powerful, lo-fi sound, which I think will be quite interesting to keep an eye on.

Fur absolutely nailed it. Much tighter than last time, and on the whole a much tighter and dynamic set. I really like the way their sound translates into the live performance, and especially so the unusual edge that the woodblock gives (even though it's a replacement for cowbell, I can forgive them because it sounds great). They're definitely moving out of the Bravery zone and into the Interpol zone - the composure and elegance of Luke (lead vocalist/guitar) is definitely tipping the balance. The drums were much, much tighter this time, which really helped the band to move as one, as it were, and gave Joe and Adam (guitar/synth and bass respectively) the freedom to express themselves a bit more. The lyrics are simple enough to allow pretty speedy singalongs, while the depth of the music behind them stops them from sounding too repetitive.

Bi-Polar Baby didn't quite live up to expectations. Kaytee seemed to be having problems with her voice, but I don't think that was it - though maybe without the precision and sweetness of the high end of her voice, the not-as-good-as-her nature of the band was a bit more obvious. Again, no disrespect to them, as they are very good, but they're not really enough to carry it if she's not quite on top form. The songs were all a little bit samey (from the perspective of someone who's not really heard them before) and I think rely on the tracks already being known, rather than grabbing the virgin listener, as it were. Would definitely be looking to see them again to see if a different atmosphere/venue suited them better. May have just been a bit of an off day. And they have cowbell... but didn't bring it. And then mentioned it. No! How cruel can you get!

Now last time I saw The Klatter I noted that they had the attitude and setlist of an established band with all the reputation-building behind them. That's not changed - spotting them swaggering around the place beforehand with an air better suited to the more lairy of Manchesterites evidenced that - but at least this time I was a bit more familiar with their sound. They seemed to put more effort into this set, maybe reacting to the better sound and location - no offence to the Flapper, but it doesn't often bring out the best in people. At least the stage stays still in the Bar Academy. The attitude, for me, is the stumbling block, but at the same time, it's what's going to make them. Their acoustic number, one that for other bands would be a lighter track, just has too much balls to let up the pressure. I think it depends on how they treat the rest of the country - if they roll up to Manchester with that 'fook you we're great' attitude, they're going to get the shit kicked out of them. If they react to an empty venue room in a pub in Exmouth by heckling the crowd and swearing at everything, they're going to get the shit kicked out of them. But if they're nice boys really, just being cocky cos it's their home town and they're playing to relatively full rooms, they should be ok. Watch this space.

27 January - Doctor Gonzo, Augustine, The Madcaps @ Flapper & Firkin, Birmingham

So, the Madcaps. Foot-tappingly good indie/rock with a bit of a punky frill. Bassist was awesome and really gave them an edge (was better than on their myspace recordings - not sure if the levels were better or if the recordings are a bit old, but definitely sounded better live). The whole set was performed at a furious pace, and being skilled musicians they pulled it off quite well. But they are missing something. Don't know what, but something was stopping them from being a grin-a-mile-wide band. I shall be forced to see them again to see if I can work it out.

Augustine, however, are something else. They take to the stage as the embodiment of quiet confidence, imbuing the atmosphere with a sense of calm and reverence, then proceeding to flay it alive like a vengeful Apollo. They have an amazingly tight, professional sound - so precise, and so fluent it's enough to bring tears to your eyes. I've never seen anything like this at the Flapper. Snake-hipped and silken-voiced Jody on vocals/synth sends a good few shivers down my spine with his soaring and yet not over-stressed voice. John's guitar playing is frankly sexual in its force and intensity (not dissimilar to Andy (Bourge)'s, actually), and James (switching between bass and synth no. 2) really brought it all together. They have style, grace, looks and confidence by the bucketload. Technical problems brought a little frustration - not through anger at the failure of technology, but a deserate longing for them to continue playing. I have only two suggestions - one, stop fiddling with your mic so much. Two, play longer. Bnann - you have competition. Birmingham bands - the bar has been raised. Augustine - watch out, you may well have a stalker. ;)

It was always going to be a hard act to follow. And credit to them, the appallingly named Dr Gonzo gave it their best despite a rapidly emptying room. Sorry lads, but it was like being given a taste of Green & Blacks and then going back onto Bournville. That's no insult to Bournville, it satisfies the tastebuds in times of need and is obviously much better than anything the evil Nestlé could provide (musical equivalent being, say, the View), but really not what you need post-near-eargasm. More melodic indie rock with a relentlessly and slightly grating cheerful edge. I don't want happy bouncy nothingness, I want angst, thwarted dreams, hearts torn to shreds and ground into the dirt with a pair of steel toe-capped DMs. Must try harder, and must change their name. Sorry.

28 January - The Vehicles, Make Good Your Escape, 95th Rifles, People In Planes @ Barfly,

I turned up just in time for People on Planes - after once again not being asked for ID on the door (woe is me now I look ancient as well as being it) - to start their set in a wonderfully atmospheric wall of noise. Had one fan going absolutely mental down the front. A fine slice of melodic indie, but this time built on what sounds like some deep reserves of anguish and pain. I like. Some curious sampling and a really nice balance with the sounds means they sound a lot less Super Furry Animals and in fact a bit more QOTSA (I'm pleased about that, I thought that at the time and they're apparently amongst their heroes). They finished up with the more traditional rock sound of 'Barracuda', and looked for all the world like they were going to smash everything on stage to pieces. May not sound like it from the Myspace recordings but blimey. I wanted to break things. (In a good way, I hasten to add.) Definitely a class act and ones I'd see again, with bells on.

95th Rifles were adorable. So very, very young, but remarkably composed, considering. Heavily influenced by the Libertines (as are so many school/college bands), with foot-tapping capability and happiest (or best at least) on the speedier numbers. Their mates certainly were, with a little bit of excitable moshing until the bouncers told them to cool it. Behaved impeccably thereafter. One thing for the band to note - quit with the sharing drinks and handing out gum. Not cool.

Make Good Your Escape (kind loaners of equipment for the evening) were another brilliant outfit, very dynamic and enticing. I was very taken by the drummer, so energetic, and the precision of his sound really brought the whole thing together. The vocalist threw himself round the stage with great gusto, somehow still keeping his breath (although I notice he took the precaution of removing his glasses before doing so... that or he was going incognito round the venue beforehand). I found myself singing along to their songs on first listen, with a beatific little smile on my face. Definitely ones to look into more - go listen to their Myspace. Now. Or at least when you've finished reading this. Maybe open it up in another window and leave it there til you're ready. ;)

The indie/new-wave edge to the Vehicles is what initially drew me to this gig (that and their sheer persistence), and I wasn't disappointed. For late on a Sunday evening, after the number of gigs I've been to recently, I was amazed I was still upright, but these chaps managed to get foot-tapping and random grins out of me and the rest of the crowd. I kept thinking what they reminded me of, before I realised that I downloaded their tunes off myspace ages ago and that was why. Heehee. Me? Daft? Never. Anyway before I distract myself too much... They have a really nice balance between the music and the lyrics, with some great choruses that would be brilliant to hear a crowd shouting back at them. Their sound is really versatile - suited to dark nights with lights on and curtains open, or wandering through parks in bright sunshine (especially 'I Don't Want to Know' - and yes I did experiment!) and would grace any radio A playlist. Will be catching this lot again, for sure, really want to see how their sound develops.


  • beardmasteruk

    Eargasm? This makes me even more gutted I missed Augustine :( You're going to have to get tougher on the shit ones though or you'll lose your reputation. I suggest you come to see us play with Dunc's band later in the month and get some much needed column inches of pure slagging off.

    Fev 5 2007, 4h11
  • beardmasteruk

    I forgot, here's a link: I also forgot to mention - my insomnia of old has returned (check time of post).

    Fev 5 2007, 4h14
  • whoopscareless

    i'm crafting some smackdowns as we speak. i'm trying to find a chaperone for the roadhouse gig... no bloody way am i going to stirchley on my own. and ouchy for the insomnia. ever tried sleeping pills? they're a wonder.

    Fev 5 2007, 17h41
  • Babs_05

    Found this following Make Good Your Escape. Great reviews! : )

    Abr 12 2007, 5h02
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